Interview with Juli

Juli continues with her yoga therapy course

In this interview with Juli, Clelia asks some questions about teaching and yoga.

1. Why are you teaching yoga, rather than just practising it for yourself?

I’m passionate about teaching. Everything I love to do, I want to share with others and help them learn how to do it too. I’m also a filmmaker, and I love teaching filmmaking. When I was learning to play the piano as a young teen, one of the first things I did was show the other neighbourhood kids how to play piano too!

2. How did you find your way through the ancient tradition of Yoga?  Why Vinyasa yoga and not another yoga?

I’ve tried a lot of different styles of yoga, and many different teachers with different styles within the same practice. Most of the studios I’d attend classes at had a wide-range of styles and teachers that I could try out – from Iyengar, Astanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Anusara, Jivamukti to Bikram / Hot, Acro, and Kundalini. I tended to get more out of the Krishnamacharya-influenced flow classes, so I spent more time practicing vinyasa. The dance-like movements work better for me than static poses in reducing the muscle-tension pain I get from endometriosis and fibromyalgia. My first teacher training was a 200-hour intensive one-month training in Mexico, at a place called Yandara. The style is influenced by Anusara, and more flow-based, but it was very open. Everyone brought their own style to the training, and then learned the basic history and philosophy of yoga, and how to teach, not just a specific style of postures / movement, but about the different aspects of yoga. The advanced teacher training I’m attending now is Svastha yoga therapy (yoga for physical and mental health), founded by A.G. and Indra Mohan, who were students of Krishnamacharya, and taught by their son, Ganesh Mohan. What I learn with this training influences my yoga teaching as well as my daily life – how to manage the stresses of a contemporary western lifestyle, how to manage pain and chronic illness, and recover from and prevent injuries.

3. What is the relationship between tradition and development in your practice as a teacher?

Yoga has always been about being adaptable to new situations / people. The ancient yogis never intended for any kind of yoga to stay the same, static or rigid. Patanjali writes about this in the Yoga Sutras. Yoga was intended to be passed down from one practitioner to another and adapt with each person and their community or environment. That is one of the beautiful things about yoga, is that it’s such a diverse practice, different wherever you go, whoever you meet. The things I learned from my teachers that resonate with me, I hold onto, develop further and adapt to my community. For instance, yoga practitioners often use gendered language that I find sexist and transphobic. It’s not necessary, so I use non-gendered and more inclusive language in my classes. I came to yoga from a very westernized viewpoint, but I’m on the path now to learning as much as I can about honouring the history of yoga, as well as respecting the contemporary south asian practices, as they evolve to be more inclusive to poorer communities, women and trans folk, and people with a variety of abilities. And as I keep learning more and more about the philosophy of yoga, I realize that there is nothing in it that cannot be adapted to my communities.

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized in other classes but still want to discover the yoga benefits. You are invited to join Juli in creating an atmosphere of alliedness by recognizing our privileges and creating space for others (queers, transfolk, sex-workers, b&pocs, differently abled, abundant bodied, low/no-income).

Yoga is Not Dance

As a yoga teacher I often hear from students, “I like yoga, but I’m not good at it.” What I understand from this is that they feel they’re expected to do the poses ‘correctly’ in order to be ‘good at yoga.’ But yoga is not dance. As yoga practitioners, we’re not performing for an audience, but we do yoga in order to feel more ease in our bodies, more calm in the mind. We practice yoga for ourselves and nobody else. True, our practice can extend to others by helping us see how we can help our communities. But the practice of yoga is not a show.

“Yoga is not a competition”

The media tells us something different. Yoga competitions are springing up all over the world. The covers of Yoga Journal and Sein show us mostly white, mostly slim, mostly cis-female flexible yogis demonstrating their fanciest poses. Yoga teachers tell us; “there is no right or wrong way to do yoga,” and “yoga is not a competition,” and “everyone has a different body.” But I’ve also heard yoga teachers say that their students are not doing the poses ‘correctly.’ In a yoga class, the teacher will offer corrections with the primary goal of preventing the practitioner from injuring themselves in the pose. But sometimes, subconscious biases causes a teacher to ‘correct’ a student’s pose so that it looks like the textbook or covermodel version, pressing a student to go beyond their own limits, and throwing them out of awareness of their own body. This can not only lead to physical injury, but can also inadvertently cause a student to feel as if they’re ‘not good at yoga.’ As a teacher, I’m always looking to find that balance to gently encourage students to find their limits and go further if they feel like it that day, or retreat from it if they need to. Sometimes this means I do not do corrections at all, especially for those new to yoga. I like to let new practitioners find their own way of doing the poses. Though I myself really like the feeling of an experienced teacher’s gentle guiding hand encouraging my shoulder blades to release down my back, so I don’t want to do away with it altogether. Maybe we even need to move away from a terminology that refers to something as a ‘correction’ and instead call these gentle encouragements something else? What would work for you? Assistance? Encouragements? Guidance?

At English Yoga Berlin, we have consent cards at the fronts of each mat with YES on one side and NO on the other, that lets the teacher know if a participant would like to be touched or not. Participants are invited to turn it over at any point in the class.

Yoga is not Dance

A regular practice of yoga can be good for dancers to balance the stresses they put on their bodies. But it can also be good for those of us who put our bodies through stress in other ways – doing manual labour such as caring for small children, cleaning or construction work, or doing immobile work without a break such as sitting at a computer desk for 8 hours every day or driving a truck for 36 hours. Human bodies need to move, we need to strengthen and limber up our bodies to create more ease in our everyday lives, to recuperate from our daily stresses. This is how a regular practice of yoga benefits us. I can understand how yoga is popular amongst dancers. But when people who have never had dance training come to yoga, and they see a dancer at the front of the room, or amongst them in the practice space, it may cause feelings of inadequacy. How can we, as yoga teachers, and how can we, as experienced yoga practitioners, make room for those new to yoga to feel comfortable?

At English Yoga Berlin, we also have a sign with guidelines as to how we would appreciate everyone act in the space. As the yoga space is for everyone, we hope to provide a space where everyone can feel comfortable. For us, this means that we respect others’ practice by not showing off, flaunting our privilege, wearing strong perfume or chatting in the practice room. Is there anything else that would help you feel more comfortable?

Safer Space

English Yoga Berlin – Safer Space Guidelines


 

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners. Juli teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga and is currently enrolled in the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program and has completed the first two modules, yoga for injuries and illnesses of the body.

Queer Yoga takes a break

This Wednesday August 17th is the last Queer Yoga Flow class of the summer season. It has been nice to see the community grow, but now it is time for a break.

queer yoga

community yoga in berlin

Queer Yoga prioritizes a space for queer and trans* folk. Allies and other misfits are welcome.

Read more about Queer* Yoga.

Juli‘s Sunday 4pm classes continue without a break, but with substitutions by 3 different teachers in 3 different styles. Here’s your chance to check out some of the other yoga teachers in our Berlin yoga community!

* August 28: Kanchi – Body Positive Yoga
* Sept. 4: Pedro – Tantric Yoga
* Sept. 11: Pinelopi – injury-conscious Hatha Yoga

All of Juli’s classes (including the classes by the substitute teachers) are available to low- / no-income people at a sliding-scale reduced rate. Read more about our community classes and payment options for low-income students.

Juli’s approach to vinyasa flow is slow and injury-conscious, including postures and techniques learned from the Svastha Yoga Therapy teacher training program that support the body in healing injuries, chronic pain and illnesses. Last winter, Juli offered a 6-week series of workshops based specifically on these trainings. And will begin a new course in winter 2016-17. Stay tuned for more info!

Juli’s aim is to make a class comfortable for those who feel marginalized in other classes but still want to discover the yoga benefits. You are invited to join Juli in creating an atmosphere of alliedness by recognizing our privileges and creating space for others (queers, transfolks, sex-workers, b&pocs, differently abled, abundant bodied, low/no-income).

The Benefits of Small Yoga Classes

Making yoga in Berlin more accesible

Small yoga classes in Berlin

Practicing yoga is a personal experience. We go deeper into ourselves to become more aware of how our bodies move, what our thoughts are, how we feel and what we need in the present moment.

Distractions while practicing yoga can pull us out of the moment, create negative thoughts or feelings, or cause us to injure ourselves. And while a meditation or yoga practice teaches us to become better at being present despite distractions, this may be difficult to do for beginners or experienced yogis alike.

A room packed full of people can easily create distractions. The proximity of others, their scents and sounds, or even our own minds making comparisons, can pull us out of our focus on the self. A private practice at home may seem like a solution, but listening to a teacher’s guiding voice helps to keep us present and less caught up in our own thoughts. It also helps us to relax and just follow.

In a practice room with less people, a yoga teacher is able to be aware of each student and give more attention where needed. They can see when you are doing something that could injure yourself and correct it or give individualized modifications. Often, in small studios, the teachers also get a chance to talk to students before the class to check how they’re feeling that day and if the student has injuries or issues to be aware of during certain exercises. At English Yoga Berlin, we also check in after the class to see how it went for the students, answer questions and gather any feedback for the next class.

At our yoga studio in Kreuzberg each student has about 3 meters square of space they can be in by themselves for their own practice. With this space, there’s no worry about hitting another student or falling into them if you lose balance. Yet students have commented on how intimate it feels and that there’s a sense of community at our space. With less people in the room, it’s much easier to recognize others, gain trust, and become aware of the interconnectedness between ourselves and others while sharing space as we move through our own individual yoga practices.

Often, small yoga classes are offered at higher rates than fuller classes, but at English Yoga Berlin all of our classes offered at regular rates (or sliding-scale rates for community classes) with a maximum of 10 students in the room. We offer Hatha yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Classical yoga and Restorative yoga classes in English at our collective studio in Berlin, Kreuzberg. Our teachers are injury conscious and will be happy to assist you before and throughout the class with tailored variations for your yoga poses. We believe that the increased awareness that we cultivate in our yoga classes together with the suggested variations for your unique body, make a difference both to practicing yoga in daily life and to the yoga benefits you take with you after class.

A Tired Mama’s Yoga – Part II

In the previous blog,  A tired mama’s yoga – Part I , I talked about the difficulties of practicing yoga while being the mother of a small child. In today’s blog, I d like to give an example of one of the multitasking practices of yoga and mommyhood. It’s this specific practice, I think, that has kept me the most in tune with yoga.

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

After not managing to practice yoga in the traditional way, I found I have to use whatever time I have to practice. Half a year ago I realized that sometimes I would spend over an hour putting the baby to bed at night. First I’d sing her lullabies, and then I would just stay there by her side making a wo wo wo sound for her to fall asleep. One day I thought, why not change this sound to my beloved Om and use this time to meditate? At the beginning of the meditation, I felt too tired to even sit up straight. Slowly the Om got more powerful, and my back started to straighten on the chair. At the end I was very surprised to feel so incredibly energized again – something had been able to break through to the new parent tiredness.

I started practicing every night again. I started liking the bed time ritual even more. Is it an uninterrupted practice? By no means. Sometimes I have to help the baby lie down again, or hold her because she is having a hard time… sometimes I have to sway her back and forth and continue with the Om standing up. Sometimes I finish the meditation and I realize that she is still awake, has been holding on to her sheet, and has been listening to her mama s om in absolute serenity for the past 20 minutes. Whichever way the meditation goes… I always feel I’ve benefited at the end of it.

I realize now, that we’ve created a mutual dependency. The baby needs the Om to fall asleep and I need the obligatory sit down time to meditate. If my internal mama duties didn’t oblige me to be by her side at bedtime, I would probably just lay down on the couch feeling too tired to do anything else that day. Fortunately she still needs me to fall asleep, and I benefit massively from this fact. Have I created a sleeping crutch for my child? Maybe. Lots of people say it s much better for children to learn to fall asleep alone. But, then again, what kind of a sleeping crutch is it? I’ve thought a lot about this. Is it such a bad thing to get her used to the Om before falling asleep? There are hundreds of documented benefits of meditation and the vibe that meditations creates for the people surrounding the medidators. I believe she is benefiting from this. Maybe through this practice I m even teaching her how to meditate before she falls asleep. That s a falling asleep habit that I am very happy to give her for her life. A habit that will strengthen her throughout.

 

A Tired Mama’s Yoga – Part I

Yoga Mom

Yoga Mom

Since I became a mom last year, the ability to do yoga in a concentrated grounded way dissipated. You could say it’s the lack of space. The baby’s play area is where I previously would practice and now is covered with cute toys that make noise during my sun salutations. Or maybe it’s the absolute lack of time. Yes, I imagined how little time I’d have. But somehow, I always thought I would find that one hour for yoga. I was mistaken. Or maybe space and time are not nearly as important as fighting through the tiredness of those sleepless nights and lack of alone time. As soon as I would start on the relaxation, I’d fall asleep. Yes, there are many obstacles to yoga as a mom.

So how can yoga and mommyhood coexist?

Well yoga, for me, has had to transform. It’s traditional disciplined form that requires alone time and quietness is totally incompatible with my present life. It has had to become a playful, in-between tasks, light type of yoga. My new yoga practice includes things like observing myself wash plates in a non-judgmental way, meditating while putting the baby to sleep, teaching the body parts to my toddler while doing a sun salutation, learning the animal kingdom through asanas, and calming the mind down by pretending to be a bee.

Does this yoga give the same benefits to that of the grounded focused yoga? Probably not. The only way of getting that focused space now, is to physically remove myself from my home and attend a class. My yoga teacher used to say “an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of theory”. This light transformed yoga is the one that’s available to me now. This is my ounce of practice. If we all were to wait for the circumstances to be absolutely right in order to practice yoga, then we’d probably never get started!

Yoga is a life companion. As our lives change it’s practical application will also change with us. But yoga’s essence will remain stable, present, and loving – guiding us through the changes of our lives like a loving parent.

Pinelopi teaches Hatha yoga classes in English at our collective studio in Berlin, Kreuzberg. Our teachers are injury conscious and will be happy to assist you before and throughout the class with tailored variations for your yoga poses. We believe that the increased awareness that we cultivate in our yoga classes together with the suggested variations for your unique body, make a difference both to practicing yoga in daily life and to the yoga benefits you take with you after class.

Flow into Spring – Bring a friend for free yoga to our new Hatha Yoga Flow class

Spring offer for free yogaThroughout the month of April, English Yoga Berlin offers you the chance to bring someone new for free to our new Hatha-Flow yoga class, Fridays at 5:30pm.

What is Hatha-Flow?

Built on the principles of Hatha Yoga – learning to become aware of your body and its sensations through movement, breath, and relaxation – the Hatha-Flow class includes more dynamic movement / breath integration than the standard Hatha Yoga classes. It can also be a suitable step in beginner yoga for those who would like to move on later to the Vinyasa Yoga classes.

We offer English yoga in Berlin Kreuzberg. Our teachers are injury conscious and will be happy to assist you before and through-out the class with tailored variations for your yoga poses. We believe that the increased awareness that we cultivate in our yoga classes together with the suggested variations for your unique body, make a difference both to practicing yoga in daily life and to the yoga benefits you take with you after class.

6 Tips on Preventing Yoga Injuries for Students

You know the post-yoga class bliss. The body feels limber, longer, and more relaxed. The chatter in the mind has either dissipated or become more focussed and clearer.  It’s a beautiful feeling.  Unfortunately, though, injuries can sometimes arise during or after a class. Why does this happen and how can we avoid it?

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

1. Be ready for the class.  Arrive early enough so that you can settle in, get warm if it’s cold outside, catch your breath if you’ve been rushing, and take the time to observe how you’re feeling.

2. Inform the teacher.  If you notice something bothering you before the class begins, or you have a recurring injury or pain, let the yoga teacher know, so they can provide safer options for you throughout the class.

3. Pay attention to the teacher’s cues.  The instructions the teacher gives are not about achieving “perfect posture.” The breathing exercises and alignment cues the teacher describes are designed to help you move with awareness and prevent injury. The order of poses may also be important. For example; it’s best to do some gentle twists after back bends, but not before finishing all the back bend poses.

4. Move at your own pace.   If the class is going too quickly for you to follow along safely, then slow down. Don’t push yourself into the next pose until you are ready to move. A good  yoga teacher will observe and either slow down or wait for you until they proceed.

5. Take the poses in stages.  Your teacher may provide stages or variations for the class. Move through each of them with awareness, and only if it feels easy move to the next. If you feel pain, lose balance, or your breath becomes difficult, then reverse back to the last option. If the teacher doesn’t provide options, just ask, or take one that you have already learned.

  6. Take breaks when you need to.   If your energy levels start to drain or you start to lose focus, take a break in child’s pose or downward facing dog or corpse pose. If you’ve ever noticed how much more clumsy you get when tired or distracted, then you can also see how you can do yourself harm if you continue to push yourself through the class with low energy or lack of focus.

  7. Ask questions.  Yes, this is a hard one because you don’t want to interrupt the class. But if you’re struggling with a pose and can’t figure out how to make it more safe for yourself: stop! Get out of the pose and motion the teacher over so you can ask quietly.

We give yoga in Berlin, Kreuzberg. Our teachers are injury conscious and will be happy to assist you before and through-out the class with tailored variations for your yoga poses. We believe that the increased awareness that we cultivate in our yoga classes together with the suggested variations for your unique body, make a difference both to practicing yoga in daily life and to the yoga benefits you take with you after class.

Why Offer Yoga In Your Business or Organisation?

 

yoga in the workplace

office yoga photo by enfad

It is very rare in today’s globalized, interconnected world that work gets accomplished alone, slowly or in a linear fashion. Contemporary employees are expected to cooperate and collaborate intensively with each other, cope with a fast pace of change, deal with the pressure of deadlines, juggle multiple responsibilities and get used to rapidly changing technologies. The multitasking, creativity and hyperawareness that today’s employees develop in order to thrive in the modern workplace can make them incredibly valuable assets to their organizations—but it also leaves them highly vulnerable to the risks of burnout, exhaustion, carpal tunnel syndrome, illness and depression.

When a person burns out, it takes a huge toll on the individual and on the people around them: their family, friends, community and coworkers. Managers need to stay alert to these risks, and put structures in place to help their staff cope. It’s estimated that burn out and mental health stress costs the european economy billions of euros per year. Any business that wants to remain effective, cohesive and innovative needs to invest in the physical and psychological wellness of its staff: happy, balanced employees make for a creative, capable team and an effective, flexible organisation.

In-company Yoga is one of the most efficient and effective ways of reducing stress, calming anxiety and soothing the body. A regular yoga practice helps people to develop skills in clearing and focusing the mind, becoming more aware of their sensations and learning to release them – through techniques of movement, breath, visualization and relaxation. Studies have shown that an hour of yoga benefits practitioners in multiple tangible and sustainable ways: lower blood pressure, more oxygen in the bloodstream, reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy, less tiredness, better sleep, better posture, team building, employee morale, etc. Practicing yoga as a group helps to build empathy, solidarity and communication amongst participants. It allows each person to relax individually, to look at their colleagues in a different light, to learn something new and to nourish themselves amidst their busy work day. Participants report going back to their desks feeling refreshed, energized and positive.

A weekly in-company yoga class is something that employees can look forward to every week. It’s an opportunity for each individual to relax and rejuvenate their body and mind, and for the group to build trust, relationship and communication with each other. Office yoga classes offer a healthy injection of positivity and wellness into your workplace culture.

Click here to see our English yoga offers for companies in Berlin and here to book a try-out class or to inquire about availability/rates or anything else.

The Gift of Yoga

Yoga is a beautiful gift for Christmas and for life

photo by Fern

Christmas time is here and you already know the drill. It s supposed to be fun, it s supposed to be a moment to rest, for reminiscing, of gratitude and happy times together with loved ones. You re supposed to be generous and show your love with gifts. Some people even manage to make it so. But for most, this period of gift shopping in Berlin ends up being such a stressful marathon of accumulating more stuff than needed, of frantically getting everything ready for Christmas day… and at the end of it all …one ends up needing a vacation from the vacation!

For those of you following this tradition: December is stressful. Yoga classes will help you get through this month, and who knows?… maybe even enjoy it. Our yoga school in Berlin Kreuzberg will only close between the 23rd to the 28th of December. Make sure to give yourself the gift of yoga during this cold dark month. Gentle movement, gentle breathing, deep relaxation are the yoga benefits that will make all the difference.

And if you are in need of a present, you can always purchase a 5er card online or at the English Yoga Berlin studio for your loved ones this Christmas. You wouldn’t be giving them yet another material present to cramp up their home… but five yoga classes full of tools for a healthier life, for staying in the present moment, for meditation, and for deep relaxation!